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Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Anger with CPS over closings and turnarounds spreads in the Legislature

High level employees of Chicago Public Schools took an unprecedented scolding Monday on the subject of school closings and turnarounds in the city – and even more heat for CPS’ perceived “disrespect” for the Illinois Legislature by the absence of its leader, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, at a hearing at the Capitol.

In the end, the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee decided to call for a joint hearing of four legislative committees – the education committees and appropriations committees of both the House and the Senate – and to force Brizard and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to attend even if they have to be subpoenaed to make that happen.

“We have been bamboozled again by CPS,” exclaimed Rep. Esther Golar (D-Chicago), complaining that constituents “got two minutes to talk and then they cut them off, they cut them off” when those citizens tried to object to a school closing at a CPS hearing late last year.

“With all due respect, it was not done properly for the community,” she lectured the CPS officials. The district had “people who were actually paid” to attend the hearing and support the school closing. “They were all plants. They were not from the community.”

Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) accused CPS of “destroying our future,” the children of Chicago. “You purposely close schools and send children in harm’s way.”

Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) who has sponsored a bill calling for a moratorium on CPS school facilities actions, looked at the CPS officials and implored, “What does it take [for CPS] to understand? We’re just spinning our wheels. We’re stuck in a ditch and can’t get out.

“I’m just a little bit upset,” Rep. Kenneth Duncan told the CPS representatives at Monday’s hearing. “Today is not a good indication [that the CPS Board] is doing right by the kids,” he said. He called upon the CPS “chief executive officer and the chief educational officer and the chief financial officer … and all those other key chiefs [to meet with the committee] and show us some respect.”

He told committee chairperson Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) that the CPS representatives on hand Monday “should be removed from the panel up here and we should listen to the other guests who are serious,” referring to students and parents who had traveled to Springfield to protest CPS’ facilities actions.

Eventually, Chapa LaVia did dismiss Adam Anderson, whose title is Officer of Portfolio Planning & Strategy, and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Michael Rendina from the hearing. Then she invited members of the audience to offer testimony. Two students took her up on that offer.

Pointedly, Chapa LaVia said the controversy surrounding CPS school closure decisions “is now out of Chicago,” indicating that legislators from all parts of Illinois are now interested in the outcome of Soto’s bill and a similar one pending in the Senate also requiring a moratorium on CPS facilities actions.

Rep. Robert Prichard (R-Sycamore) illustrated the point by asserting that the CPS is “not serving the people of Chicago” as it should. In the committee hearing and again at a brief news conference under the Capitol rotunda, Prichard stressed his belief that the CPS “is too large” to be managed effectively.

The failure of Brizard to attend the committee hearing infuriated legislators at least as much as reports from constituents about what one representative called the “chaos” resulting from precipitous school closings in Chicago’s minority neighborhoods.

At one point Chapa LaVia had to halt the hearing and remove the committee members briefly to a nearby room just to calm them down. Chapa LaVia later told Catalyst Chicago she had never before taken such action and had never even seen it done before at the Capitol.

Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn), the Republican spokesperson on the committee, made the motion to call for the joint hearing of the four committees, and she specifically listed Brizard, other top CPS officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel as witnesses whose appearance should be sought.

Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Chicago) is Vice-Chair of the Appropriations Committee for Elementary and Secondary Education funding. Expressing her frustration with CPS actions and lack of “transparency,” she said if it takes “holding the funding [from CPS to gain its cooperation], so be it.”

“Is [CEO] Brizard just a figurehead?” demanded Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), sarcastically implying that Rendina and Anderson were not high enough on the CPS totem pole to address the committee. She also demanded to know who obtained contracts and how much they are paid for school turnarounds.

“Someone is making big dollars … to manage the turnarounds,” Davis said.

Anderson told her that a fee of “$435 per student goes to fund the operating model” of turnaround schools. He cited AUSL, a nonprofit organization created initially to prepare teachers for CPS. David Vitale , a former AUSL board chairman, is now president of the CPS Board.

As to why Brizard was a no-show, Rendina explained that the district expected the hearing to be on the “subject matter” of facility interventions and that Anderson “is the expert” on that subject. CEO Brizard did not believe presence would be needed at the Capitol.

Chapa LaVia said the committee was “operating on the assumption” that the CPS would take the hearing as seriously as state agencies and other organizations do when the subject matter is exclusively about them.  “You have to understand the gravity of this,” she said.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


are these the same Legislators who refuesed to listen to hear about sb7??? maybe now they will amend the 75 percent rule and quit giving CPS special status for things like strikes and residency????/

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


also if they could get that sb7 passed sdo quickly! maybe they can also dissolve the CPS board of rubber stamps???????????

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


There are the same legislators who listened to the union and passed SB7 at the union's request. This agreement devastated teachers' rights in the state of Illinois.

AgainstTheLongestDay wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Reversal of Mayoral Control of CPS

The writing's on the's time for the citizens of Chicago to take back CPS from the greedy, wealthy corporations and their lapdogs! It's so refreshing to see our state legislators standing up for their constituents. Brizzard wasn't there because he's a COWARD; he knows what he's doing is wrong.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Chicagoans want an elected CPS Board of Education now!

I finally have hope that the State legislators will do the right thing. I have hope in the steadfast leadership of Rep. Davis, the only vote against SB7.

We have a new Board appointed by the Mayor who are either billionaires or charter school operators. Conflict of interest is a given.

We have imported a new breed of bureaucrats from California, Brooklyn, Rochester, Phoenix -- from anywhere but Chicago -- brought here to dismantle a complex school system they don't know and that took 100 years to build.

We have a huge dis-information campaign promulgated by CPS and its pr army of consultants like Resolute Consulting -- the same folks who brought you "rent-a-protestor."
Not true: 7.5 hours is the national average
Not true: 83% of 3rd graders are below expectations in Reading on ISATs
True: There is no funding for the longest school day in the nations.
True: CPS denies funding for years to schools its plans on closing.

This Mayor has kicked a hornet's nest.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

I Agree!

I completely agree with this responder. It is time for the people of Chicago to have a voice in our schools are run. We pay the taxes, we volunteer our time, we provide financial resources in terms of donations and fundraisers, we need to be heard.

The appointed board, CEO Brizzard, and Mayor Emmanuel with their school closings and push for an unfunded too-long day do not reflect the needs of our communities or our children.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

No Charter Operators on CPS Board

I don't know about billionaires, but I am 100% certain there are no charter operators on the CPS board.

dzipio wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

No, but two of the Board

No, but two of the Board members are owners of AUSL which is a private company contracted to do turnarounds. How cozy is that?

Don wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


It seems to me that SB7 indicates the legislatures position as pro school reform. Wouldn't that include some school closing? With Noble growing at two campuses a year, that alone should require the closing of about two high schools a year.
Noble just announced to grow to 16,000 students. The math of the impact on CTU schools is pretty straightforward.
The future of primary school closing/turnarounds and AUSL role seems less certain. There seems to be much less evidence of efficacy when dramatic changes are made at those schools.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


They don't own AUSL. AUSL is a non-profit. It doesn't profit from taking over more schools. Those dollars go into the schools they run. Don't be so hyperbolic, it dilutes your argument.

Don wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


is a non profit.
As is every charter school in Chicago (I believe).
Non profit can be abused by huge salaries, but there are no owners looking for a return on investment. The governing boards of Ed. non-profits are unpaid, AFAIK.

You really need to ignore specifics if you want to work the corporate conspiracy theory hard. All I see is a bunch of teachers and admins who wanted to work creatively outside the stiffly bureaucracy of big education.

It's ironic that CPS employees see the inefficiency of a huge organization, yet demonize those teachers who are trying to do better by starting new.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


until ausl and noble run without taxpayer money...they are part of the system. dont fool yourself. noble is run by a husband and wife????

Chicago dad wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

AUSL cronies

When former AUSL board now CPS board members give preference to AUSL school upgrades/repairs over regular schools that outperform them in crumbling buildings then something is really seriously wrong.

Don wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

ausl and Noble

Of course they are part of the system. That system is no longer just traditionally hired CTU members.

Noble seems to get it's capital costs from philanthropy and grants outside of CPS. They're not in crumbling buildings principally because they found the money to have better. From the best I can tell they raise $4-5 million to renovate a new school, and then average a couple hundred thousand a year in repair and improvements. That enough for proper, but not fancy, buildings that stay in good condition.

Noble is run by a unpaid board of directors and a staff headed by former CPS teacher and co-founder Milkie.

I though AUSL had some philanthropic funding too at first, but I'm not sure. Some turnarounds have had philanthropic money donated I believe.

A quick look at the CPS budget shows that the primary determinant the quality of buildings and add on services is the CTU contract. The revenue "pie" isn't getting meaningfully bigger. More salary and benefits has to mean crappier building and fewer extras.

Chicago dad wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


Capital funding is not diminished by teacher salaries or anything CTU.
"The City will pay for its share for these projects from TIF funds and CPS will provide its share from bond issues based on general-fund revenues."

Don wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


The money is mostly borrowed by bonds for major projects. That's why it's in a separate fund. But you can look at the actual CPS operating budget to see the percentages of what goes where.
There's no magic money genie that can produce whatever salaries the CPS agrees to pay its employees. It all comes from somewhere in competition with other uses. Some of that is to service the bond debt, whether or not it's in the operating budget.
Overall it's little different than a household budget with a mortgage.
If you look at the size of operating budget it becomes clear that the CTU complaining about a million or two for an IB program is political theater. Conversely a small percentage change in employment expense is a huge amount of money.
Perhaps the CTU will issue a press release on itself? "Teachers Annual Raises Strip Schools Of Funds Needed for Basic Repairs". That's actually more true than many of the smaller budget items the CTU complains about.
The "pie" is essentially a fixed size. Salaries compete with other nice things like smaller class size and building repair.

Danny wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Anderson or Sicat?

Confused here about Adam Anderson's role. I thought Oliver Sicat was the Chief Portfolio Officer at CPS. Has there been a change?

xian wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Teacher salaries

The post 2 above is flat out false. Teacher compensation has dropped as a line item in the budget by nearly 20% over the last 8 years.

Between the wasted Capital Improvements money (needed but going to clout), no-bid contracts and debt service to connected banks, we are talking about $2-$2.5 billion.

Now obviously, except for the debt service, we need to spend a large portion of that money, but given the recent revelations, it'd be pretty normal for educators to ask for their portion of the pie back and audit the heck out of the portion in question with the wasted money going to other classroom expenditures.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

school board

To be honest, and I am a teacher. I wouldnt mind if I dontg get a raise or even lost my job due to board descisions. However, when the board is a rubber stamp committee that controls federal, state, and local money on the word of one elected offcial ie the mayor....i get very angry! People complain about the least the union is a democratic organization (not perfect)....the board is about as independent as Stalins or North Koreas "people. congress"!! Why should the mayor control all this money????

Anonymous wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

To my anonymous colleague above:

It saddens me when educators fail to show even the slightest regard for the rules of written English while publicly announcing that they are members of our much-maligned profession. Not only does it take away from your point about the concentration of power, but it gives additional ammunition to those who would attack us. I'm sorry that your job means so little to you and that you do not care if you are fairly compensated for your efforts. Perhaps it is because you are lucky to be working. Please understand that your colleagues who strive for excellence, even with limited resources, deserve more in terms of professional respect and financial compensation. As such, please do not "out" yourself as one of us until you learn to compose a sentence and utilize spell-check. The rest of us will be grateful for your restraint.

Don wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Teacher salaries

What wasted capital improvement money?
"it'd be pretty normal for educators to ask for their portion of the pie back" - from whom, the banks? The CPD? The broke state legislature?
Nothing I wrote suggested what a teacher should make, or how much we as a society should be spending on education. We spend much more on a prisoner than a student, and apparently 11 aircraft carriers are more important than school infrastructure.
But here in Chicago, the size of Rahm's school money is pretty close to fixed. How is it a lie that salaries compete with other uses of that money? CPS doesn't have the luxury of writing a document that's a big unrealistic wish list of what students and teachers deserve. They have to run a system with too small a budget and a lot of bureaucratic inefficiency.

close observer wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


So Rahm cares so much about the "children of Chicago". Where was he all of those years in Washington, caring about the children? Did he care about the children when he was making his millions working for a hedge fund, with no banking expertise, but alot of connections? And do people really believe that individuals who have spent their lives trying to make millions of dollars and now head "non-for-profit" charters truly care about the children, but individuals who have been teaching in the city for 25 years, under some pretty undesirable conditions, have been doing it out of greed and selfishness because they ask for some rights through a union? Now really!!!

xian wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Fair Question

What I'm saying is that the size is fixed and less of it is going to classroom education and compensating those who work directly with children and more to sweetheart contracts and magic bullet initiatives. That suggests that it is not "fixed" and in fact needs to be fixed. If you give the community the keys to the budget, I'm sure we'll gladly fix it. Until then, every piece of blame for the imbalanced budget lies on those responsible for balancing the budget and putting the maximum into the classroom. They have failed and banks have gotten rich while children have "gotten the shaft".

Bill Weeks wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

CPS Board of Education and the General Assembly

It is about time that the General Assembly, who where more than happy to destroy the rights of the faculty, actually gets a taste of what Emmanual and his lackeys are up to. Follow the money is something that I was taught early in life. Can the General Assembly start to do the same?

dzipio wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


Much of this could be fixed if the TIF money went where it should and not to bail out LaSalle Street Traders.

Don wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago


"If you give the community the keys to the budget, I'm sure we'll gladly fix it. "

Is there an example of a large urban school district in the U.S. that is"fixed"? CPS has gone through may styles of management over the years, including more local control. The data from that era doesn't indicate that the schools were better at preparing children for better lives. But perhaps the schools in those times were more humane and carrying.

However I do agree that top down projects widely implemented instead of first prototyped are historically proven to be more likely harmful than helpful. It possible that some of Rahm's rigidity on initiatives such as school day and teacher evaluations will soften as part of contract negotiations. Rahm doesn't have money to negotiate with, so perhaps he's substituting a bit of crazy.

The bond costs aren't making the banks getting rich. These costs are the bond holders being paid back what was borrowed plus interest. Interest rates have been near historical lows for years now. It does little good to suggest that the city can somehow now abdicate its responsibility to repay those loans.

CPS teachers have uncomfortably limited resources to govern their classroom. So do principals. So does Rahm and Brizard.

Chicago dad wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

Good article FYI

A bit off topic, but another in what has become a series of good, comprehensive articles on the "corp-reform" agenda we are afflicted by.

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